What’s This Episode About?
Federal aviation investigator Grant Sheckly must deal with a mystery when a plane lands at an airport without pilots, passengers or luggage.
Season 3 Episode 2
Directed by Boris Sagal
Rod Serling’s Opening Narration – This object, should any of you have lived underground for the better parts of your lives and never had occasion to look toward the sky, is an airplane. Its official designation: a DC-3. We offer this rather obvious comment because this particular airplane, the one you’re looking at, is a freak. Now, most airplanes take off and land as per scheduled. On rare occasions, they crash. But all airplanes can be counted on doing one or the other. Now, yesterday morning this particular airplane ceased to be just a commercial carrier.
As of its arrival, it became an enigma, a seven-ton puzzle made out of aluminum, steel, wire, and a few thousand other component parts, none of which add up to the right thing. In just a moment, we’re going to show you the tail end of its history. We’re going to give you ninety percent of the jigsaw pieces, and you and Mr. Sheckly, here of the Federal Aviation Agency, will assume the problem of putting them together, along with finding the missing pieces. This we offer as the evening’s hobby, a little extracurricular diversion which is really the national pastime – in The Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling’s fascination for airplanes and mysteries continues in this very like-able and suspenseful 3rd season episode of the seminal sci fi show from the 1960’s. Directed by “The Omega Man” helmer, Boris Sagal (who ironically died himself as a result of a tragic propeller accident in Portland, Oregon while shooting a movie), “The Arrival” is a memorable and a quietly under-rated episode that is often overlooked and forgotten but still resides on that threshold that superior episodes about airplanes, like “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” have stepped way beyond.
Perhaps it is the methodical and logical approach to the mystery that Serling provides. It hints at something supernatural going on but it may be something more natural and earthbound. The mysteries and complications of the mind was always a fantastic playground for Serling to play in and the end result in “The Arrival” may not be any less relevant than other, more popular and iconic entries. But it may indeed leave some a bit cold.
Harold J Stone (The Wrong man, Spartacus) plays FAA Investigator Grant Sheckly, who is called in to investigate a commercial airplane that has landed in a New York State airport, which originated in Buffalo, without pilots, crew and even passengers. Sheckly had an unbroken record with the FAA of solving these occurrences and when he is called in, he feels that this will be an open and shut case.
In typical TZ fashion, though, Serling creates doubt and uncertainty when strange things start to arise. With the aid of a PR man, named Malloy, a mechanic, a ramp attendant and a VP named Bengston, Sheckly becomes convinced that everyone is seeing and experiencing different things regarding the empty aircraft.
Things like, everyone seeing different colors of the airline seats and different ID numbers on the planes fuselage. As soon as these things happen, Serling starts the slow descent of the Sheckly’s mind, reputation and abilities. He begins to doubt himself and Sagal handles this with a capable and old fashioned flair. It is revealed to Sheckly that perhaps the plane is not real but an illusion, even at one point suggesting mass hypnosis or hallucination.
Eventually, we are exposed to yet another world that Sheckly and his colleagues inhabit and Sheckly must come to terms with his past. By the episode’s climax, most will not be terribly impressed by the outcome. The episode sometimes sucks the life out of itself but the set up and build up are more satisfying than the last revelation which makes the episode skillfully done but not entirely efficient. But Stone, Serling, Sagal and the supporting cast sell it well with plenty of mood, style and reverence for the material. Enjoy!
Closing Narration – Picture of a man with an Achilles’ heel, a mystery that landed in his life and then turned into a heavy weight dragged across the years to ultimately take the form of an illusion. Now, that’s the clinical answer that they put on the tag as they take him away. But if you choose to think that the explanation has to do with an airborne Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship on a fog-enshrouded night on a flight that never ends, then you’re doing your business in an old stand – in The Twilight Zone.
Vic’s Note: Season 3 of The Twilight Zone is back on for Netflix Streaming!